A qualitative study of the development and maintenance of pathological gambling in females: And making the choice to recover


Much of the gambling research has been done on males, and differences in female problem gamblers are less understood. This research is a phenomenological study designed to explore the process of the development, maintenance and making the choice to recover from pathological gambling in women. A semi-structured one-hour interview was conducted with each of eight female participants who were in recovery from gambling problems. Elements of Consensual, Qualitative Research (Hill, Thompson, and Williams (1997)) were used to guide the data analysis. The results indicate that the participants’ early family history was characterized by unpredictability and lack of stability due to psychiatric illness in the family, often a parent, substance abuse and dependency in the family, and the participants reported a history of maltreatment in the form of sexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect within the family. Disordered gambling progressed rapidly after a difficult emotional event and loss was experienced. The participants reported that gambling allowed them to enter a trancelike state to manage negative emotions and to avoid problems, which helped maintain disordered gambling. Significant family disruptions, loss of job, debt, loss of housing, emotional distress and legal problems for some occurred prior to seeking treatment and choosing recovery. Participants reported that processing emotions related to maltreatment, finding compassion for themselves, experiencing a sense of belonging, learning to establish boundaries and to accept responsibility for themselves facilitated recovery. Implications for treatment are discussed.

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